The heir apparent to Kemba Walker was stunningly cut from a basketball team this offseason.
Shabazz Napier, whose role at UConn grew during the team's national championship run and is expected to continue to blossom with Walker having left for the NBA, was one of the final players cut from the World University Games team that played in China for Purdue coach Matt Painter.
According to the New Haven Register, Napier found his motivation after being left off the team.
"It was disappointing, and also surreal, just because I haven’t been cut from a team in a while," Napier said on Tuesday, prior to a team workout inside Guyer Gym. "It motivated me in a good way, but not in a way that I don't like Coach Painter or the USA team. It didn't do that. It just made me want to push harder. At the end of the day, I didn't get chosen for the team because my presence wasn't felt as much. I wasn't being myself. So, I've been out here to help that motivate me and get my team going."
That's great news for UConn, which is hoping the 6-foot sophomore can guide the team to another championship. Napier was comfortable handling the ball last season, enabling Walker to roam free to dominate as a scorer. Now he's in a position to start for the first time and improve after averaging 7.8 points and 3 assists as a freshman.
The talent that surrounds Napier is clearly very good. Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi and freshman Andre Drummond, whose late signing turned the Huskies into Big East favorites, are all looking to blossom as well.
It was Napier's clutch free throws that closed out Kentucky in the Final Four. Now with him looking to assert himself in the future, it's just yet another good sign for the defending champs.